|Greg Scott Brown
For starters, he breathed underwater.
That would have come in handy the
summer I was expected to sink into
the grimy abyss of the Municipal Pool.
Instead, I could not breach the surface,
could not plunge my high-strung head
beneath, so full of the dread of drowning.
Me, and legions of kids called Tadpoles.
Aquaman, created by men to teach boys
about men, had nothing on the simpering
girl with viridescent hair who needed me
to stay below the water-line, to be a good
soldier, to suck it up, and to tread the briny
like a motherfucker. Of course, she had no
cinder-block pecs, no glitzy, greenorange
formfitting manwrapper straight out of
pro-wrestling by way of the Ballets Russes.
And did I mention? Aquaman could hold
his breath. Or no. Not hold it.
Not need to hold it.
Like my uncle, who, the family claimed,
could submerge six minutes or some
unfathomable eternity. A real man,
surely—his furry, sea-lion trunk bobbing
along the lapis veneer of a Holiday
Inn pool, martini held aloft.
Or, like Dirk, the young man charged
with the Tadpoles' salvation.
Dirk Davenport was older bigger hairier
than me, and reeked of Vitalis and Hai
Karate, even soaking wet. A dark
Speedo hung below his narrow waist—
a kind of censor's black bar, riveting
attention to what it concealed.
Never flinching from a dive into
the stinging pool (the Tadpoles said
it smelled of jizz)
Dirk flourished in the chlorinated depths
like some outlandish strain of coral
no landlubber could ever contrive.
I loved Dirk Davenport because he
could swim, could propel his glorious,
Utopian frame from one rough edge
of the pool to the other without a whiff
of despair. That whole summer long,
while Dirk breezily traversed
the murk of masculinity, all the other
useless boys and I were cast like chum
into public pools for our own good—
everything suspended in the pitiless blue.